Amid drought impacts, Tahoe locals create fall race to help raise funds for Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue
If you go
What: The Great Trail Race
Where: Tahoe City to Truckee
When: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9
Cost: By Sept. 18: $70 adults, $55 youth/seniors. By Oct. 7: $80 adults, $65 adults/seniors. Day of race: $90 adults, $70 youth/seniors. Two-person team: $135/$150/$160
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Three of the past five years, the Great Ski Race — a historic cross-country ski race stretching from Tahoe City to Cottonwood Restaurant in Truckee — has been canceled due to an impenetrable roadblock: lack of snow.
And the previous two times the race did take place, including the 39th Great Ski Race last March, the snowpack was barely deep enough.
This climate-changing swing has undoubtedly been a drag for the Tahoe-Truckee community and the avid cross-country skiers who eagerly await the Great Ski Race, the largest Nordic race west of the Mississippi, year after year.
Above all, though, the uncertainty of whether Mother Nature will allow the Great Ski Race to run each year has been a harsh reality for Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue, the race’s organizers.
“The Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team has historically relied on the Great Ski Race as its primary source of operating capital,” said Chris McConnell, president of the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to locating and recovering lost or injured skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, snowmobiles, hikers and climbers. “The need to diversify our fundraising has become a reality.”
North Lake Tahoe residents Chaco Mohler and Todd Jackson, friends and advocates of TNSAR, were acutely aware of this and wanted to help. Mohler is a local writer and publisher, while Jackson is the founder and president of Big Blue Adventure, which produces a bevy of events in the region.
With that, Mohler and Jackson are launching the inaugural Great Trail Race, a trail running and mountain biking competition benefiting TNSAR. The race, which will follow roughly the same route — and seek to capture the same spirit — as the Great Ski Race, will be held Sunday, Oct. 9.
“We hope to create a reliable funding mechanism for them (TNSAR),” Mohler said. “We hope to create a really great, fun community event. And the last thing is creating an event that’s really in the shoulder season; we wanted it in October so we can put heads on beds up here and help fill the shoulder season, which our business community needs.
“So we think it’s a win-win-win.”
‘A community event’
Mohler said the idea for putting on the Great Trail Race came more than a year ago following a conversation with Doug Reid, a longtime member of TNSAR, shortly after the cancellation of the 2015 edition of the Great Ski Race.
“I said, Doug, we have to do something for you guys,” Mohler said. “We got to come up with a different event, a summer event that would get you some funding.
“I said, I have my best buddy, who’s an event guy. Why don’t Todd and I take this on for you?”
Following multiple meetings with TNSAR members to map out the details of the event, Mohler and Jackson created the Great Trail Race, which is being produced by Big Blue Adventure. TNSAR volunteers will also be helping out and manning stations, said Mohler, adding, “but they don’t have the incredible pressure and weeks of work that they have to put on the Great Ski Race.”
The Great Trail Race, Mohler said, will include both elite and classic divisions, competing for overall, age group and team prizes. Both courses are approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) in length.
Classic runners and mountain bikers compete on both paved dirt sections of roads and fire roads leading from Tahoe City to Truckee. Elite runners and mountain bikers will divert from the route onto more technical, single-track sections of trail.
Like its winter cousin, the Great Trail Race will finish at Cottonwood Restaurant, where a festive finish-line party — filled with live music, food and well-earned drinks — will commence.
“This is really a community event,” Mohler said. “The Great Ski Race is a really, really great event, and that’s the complete model for the Great Trail Race — to try to capture that spirit and make it fun.”
Visit greattrailrace.com to register and learn more about the Great Trail Race.